July 1, 2020

Axios morning email thingie tells us that we are turning into a cashless society:

We’ve suddenly cut back on using cash for fear it may spread the virus, and some worried shopkeepers have stopped accepting it, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson reports.

  • Why it matters: The virus has changed our buying and payment habits forever. Online shopping is through the roof, and consumers are rushing to get “contactless” credit and debit cards, which are tapped at a merchant terminal rather than inserted or swiped.

The coronavirus has made us scared to touch anything, and there’s a perception that money is dirty and payment terminals carry germs.

  • ATM use is down 32%, according to Visa, and 63% of consumers say they’re using less cash.

The next big thing: contactless cards. They’re pervasive in Europe and elsewhere, and are just starting to hit the U.S. in a big way.

  • People who use Apple Pay and Samsung Pay on their phones have gotten used to paying with a wave.
  • Burger King ran a recent commercial in which it touted its contactless payment option.

Which sounds very modern and fancy, but it also signals another great divide: what about people who don’t have bank accounts, the vast majority of whom are Black and Latino? This is why those payday lenders/check cashing places exist.

I know I bang on this drum a lot. White privilege is pervasive and largely unseen by white people like me (which is why it is a privilege) but when stories like this don’t even consider the impact on people of color, it’s just another example of unseeing, unthinking erasure of our friends and neighbors experience.

I don’t really know if money is a vector of the virus, though I have often watched people lick their fingers before peeling off bills, but if it is, then the folks who are forced to pay in cash spending are gonna be hurt.

Republished with permission from Mock Paper Scissors

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